On September 8, a group of advocates and stakeholders met in Washington, DC and on the phone from around the country to attend the Social Security Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 Briefing. Bonnie Kind, the Associate Commissioner for Budget, began the meeting by discussing the FY17 budget for the Social Security Administration. On average, Bonnie reported, 68 million people receive Social Security benefits each month – and Social Security benefits keep 21 million people out of poverty each year. Unfortunately, Social Security is facing budget challenges that may impact SSA’s ability to deliver quality services to its recipients. Claims are higher than ever before, but the agency received $350 million less for its FY16 budget than President Obama requested. Service delays are causing hardships for our most vulnerable citizens. If funding levels continue to be inadequate for FY17, SSA may have to resort to extreme cost saving measures, such as reducing service hours to the public, closing service locations, and/or hiring freezes and furloughs for employees. Without adequate funding for the Social Security Administration, many Americans may wait longer to receive the benefits they need and deserve.
The Administration shared a couple of stories from Social Security recipients that outline the struggles that Americans are facing under the current SSA budget shortfall, including:
- There is a woman in Florida whose diabetes, arthritis, and open-heart surgery kept her from working, but she couldn’t afford her medicine and became homeless while waiting for more than two years for a Social Security hearing. Her son quit college to help her pay for rent after she was evicted.
- A man in Alaska applied for disability benefits after he began experiencing seizures in 2011. It is likely that he will not receive a hearing until 2017. He is close to losing his house.
- Another man in Ohio has been waiting more than two years to get benefits after undergoing triple bypass surgery in December of 2013. His hearing will soon be held, but says, “Some days I just sit here and cry because I don’t know what to do. I’m sick of worrying about how I’m going to make it from one day to the next.”
If you have a story to share about using Social Security, please submit them to our Diverse Elders Stories Initiative.
Social Security has a huge impact on our communities’ ability to age with dignity. Without this source of income, research shows that 53% of African Americans, 49% of Latinos, and 19% of Asian American elders would fall below the poverty line. Many of the elders we serve require Social Security payments to cover their basic needs, and service delays mean that elders are unable to pay their rent, afford transportation, or put food on the table for themselves and their families. The Diverse Elders Coalition supports the full funding of Social Security and the delivery of services that diverse elders need and deserve. For more information, check out the Social Security page on our website.
And as a reminder, it’s our elected officials who ultimately determine the funding of services like Social Security – are you registered to vote?